Marilyn Morris, Ph.D., is the 2013 AAPS president-elect.
Biomedical research results in better treatments for diseases, improved approaches for the prevention of illness or disability, and better quality of life. Much of this research is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the U.S. Department of Human Health and Services. NIH is facing sequestration—across the board budget cuts starting on January 1, 2013—which will result in a sequestration cut of 8.2% and a $2.8 billion reduction in NIH funding.
To put this in perspective, a cut of this magnitude would result in a 25% decrease in total new supported grants and a significant budget reduction for existing grants. This potential cut comes at the end of a decade that has already seen 20% decreases in the NIH budget, with some institutes already funding only 7% of all submitted grants. Other U.S. federal agencies that fund research, including the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the Department of Defense, will also see cuts. The impact of such cuts in NIH and other federal agencies will have a ripple effect: it will directly translate into loss of medical advances for the detection, prevention, and treatment of disease, the loss of academic research faculty and staff from universities and research institutes and the subsequent economic implications, and the downsizing and elimination of graduate student and postdoctoral fellow training programs, affecting our future scientific workforce.
Schools of pharmacy, which are primarily responsible for the training of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in the pharmaceutical sciences, will be highly impacted. As stated in the issue brief from the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP), ”Last year pharmacy faculty received $330 million from the NIH to support their research. A sequestration cut of 8.2% to NIH means a $27 million cut to schools of pharmacy. Every $1 million reduction could mean that 4 post-docs, 8 graduate research assistants, and 8 lab assistants could lose their jobs and the cost of losing the faculty research could mean additional years of pain and suffering for many patients.”
No one would argue that cutting biomedical funding is a desirable mechanism to reduce the nation’s deficit and debt, but the importance of biomedical research to our society in finding new cures for disease must be kept in the forefront of the discussion. Can we do anything about this? Time is running out on Capitol Hill. Our elected leaders need to know that research matters to future health and economic prosperity.